Knowing the classifications is incredibly helpful when purchasing and eating cheese and cooking with it. Think of these different situations. You can identify a cheese on a cheeseboard or platter by looking at the ripening. You can substitute one cheese for another when cooking by looking at the cooking properties of similar cheeses.
There are many ways food lovers classify cheese. Some classify cheese by the texture of it, (hard or soft), or by the ripening of it, (bacteria or mold). Here are the four main types of classification groups of cheese and the descriptions of each.
Classifications of Cheese by Texture:Hard Grating Cheeses: Parmesan
Firm/Hard: Emmental, Cheddar, Provolone
Semisoft: Brick, Muenster, Roquefort, Talleggio
Soft: Camembert, Brie
Fresh: Ricotta, Cottage
Processed: American, Cheese Spreads
Classifications of Cheese by Covering:
Hard/Leather/Waxed Rind: Larger cheeses, longer maturity, pressed to remove moisture - Raclette, Gruyère, Gouda
Bloomy/Downy Rind: Soft rinds, often ‘fuzzy’, usually softens with ages - Brie
Natural Rind: Interior is soft to firm with a natural rind that has a soft gray/blue colour or that often changes colour with age - Sainte Maure, Pouligny St. Pierre
Saltwater Washed Rind: Saltwater-bath as it ripens - Muenster, Feta
Blue Cheeses: Blue/green veined, cheese is cultured with bacteria to give it its colours - Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola
Fresh Cheese: No rind, high water content, unripened - Fromage Frais, Demi-sel, Ricotta, fresh Goat Cheese, Mascarpone
Classifications of Cheese by Ripening:Bacteria ripened from outside: Cheddar, Parmesan
Bacteria ripened from inside: Limburger
Mold ripened from outside: Stilton, Saga Bleu
Mold ripened from inside: St. André
Classifications of Cheese by Cooking Types:
As far as cooking and baking cheese types go, there are seven basic types of cheese:
Cheddar-Style: Golden/white coloured, firm, shreds nice, good melting qualities -Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, Gouda
Swiss-Style: White/cream coloured, tangy, firm, shreds nice - Swiss, Jarlsburg, Gruyère, Emmentaler
Parmesan-Style: Hard to very hard in texture, nutty in flavour, grates nice -Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino, Romano, Asiago
Bleu Cheese-Style: Crumbly texture, sharp to smooth in flavour - Gorgonzola, Stilton, Bleu d’Avergne, Roquefort
Ricotta-Style: Soft cheese, high in water, mild flavour - Ricotta, cottage cheeses
Cream Cheese-Style: Soft, used for spreading or incorporating - cream cheese, Neufchâtel, some fresh goat cheeses
Mozzarella-Style: Soft or stringy, used for pizzas, nachos, quesadillas -Mozzarella, Oaxaca, string cheeses
Notes and Tips:
*Any cheese in the different styles can be interchanged as needed, for example, in the bleu cheese-style, a basic blue and Roquefort can be used interchangeably, although there will be some notable taste differences between the two.
*When grating a hard cheese for pasta dishes, Asiago and Parmesan can be used in place of the other if one is not available.